“Good food is the foundation of genuine happiness.” — Auguste Escoffier
As we enter into spring, this quote resonates with a simple poignancy. There is a genuine feeling of anticipation this time of year, as we scrape the ice from our car for the hundredth time; we begin to see a bright, warm light at the end of a long, cold winter. As we grow tired of root vegetables, braised meats and heavy sauces, spring wakes up with the promise of vibrant flavors and fresh ingredients.
Soon enough, the local produce will be abundant, and soon too, comes the perfect time for foraging. As a chef, this is the perfect time to create dishes that highlight morel mushrooms, fiddlehead ferns, and ramps. The locations of these ingredients are cautiously guarded, each person secretly harvesting nature’s most prized treasures.
This is my favorite season to cook. It is as if spring’s bloom is contagious, waking me from a sort of hibernation, giving me the tools to put the best ingredients on the plate. There is something indescribable about walking into a restaurant and stepping into a new world — a vision from that chef as to how food should be served. The chef’s job is easier this time of year, using an arsenal of proven cooking techniques to pull the maximum flavor out of each element.
With the best ingredients, genuine happiness is only a bite away.
To help you start thinking — and tasting spring — here’s a recipe for panna cotta with fresh berries. This dessert is a personal favorite of mine due to both its simplicity and its light flavor, making it the perfect way to end a wonderful meal.
— Sous chef Bret Andreasen
Recipe: Panna Cotta with Vanilla and Berries
- 2 Leaves of Gelatin
- ½ Cup of Milk
- 2 ¼ Cups of Heavy Cream
- ½ Cup of Sugar
- 1 Vanilla Bean, Split and Scraped
- Fresh Berries
- Bloom leaves of gelatin in water.
- Bring ½ cup of milk to a simmer, being careful not to boil.
- Squeeze water out of the gelatin and add to milk.
- Turn off the heat and reserve.
- In another pan, heat heavy cream, vanilla bean, and sugar to a boil over a low heat.
- Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in the gelatin and milk mixture.
- Pour into a heavily sprayed 8 inch pie pan. Chill in the refrigerator until set, about four hours.
- When it is set, turn it out onto a plate and garnish with berries.